The changes in the world order we have seen in the last 5 to 10 years are not only extremely profound, they are also permanent, however much that is possible. The power of the world is rapidly shifting eastwards, returning it to where it was before and during the middle ages and before the industrial revolution. The power the European states, and after that, the Americas, acquired on the back of rapid industrialisation , was in many ways a historical accident.
Interesting academic research recently undertaken in the US looked at historical patterns of economic measures: trade flows, per capita income, population levels, capital flows, government expenditures, GDP per head – everything basically which makes the world economy function. And what were their conclusions? In 1970, the centre of the world economy was in the mid Atlantic; in year 2000, the centre had shifted to Israel; by 2020, it will shift to Tibet – the inevitable force eastwards.
The shift of power to Asia, and more particularly to India and China, returns the world to the natural order of things, driven inextricably by large populations, strong cultures, and strong commitment to education and development. Industrialization is being pushed along by a final realisation that this can only occur under free markets and open trade, and once started, and once the benefits are felt by the populations, the electorates will not allow a return to the “bad old days”.
In this, it is interesting to observe the handover of power currently underway in China. Early indications are that the progressive faction of the communist party lead by Wen Jiabao has won the ideological battle between the old ultra conservative Mao sympathisers, lead by the charismatic but ideological Bo Xilai, and those who want to uphold the rule of law and move gradually to some level of democratization. A similar struggle is currently being played out in India, although possibly with a different outcome. The pace of reform there has slowed over the past three or four years, and there is not a clear indication of the political outcome. However, India being a democracy, a slow down in economic growth and development will inevitably cause an electoral backlash, which will eventually lead to further reforms. It is just in India everything seems to take so much longer.
Where does this leave Australia? As the only advanced Western economy (including NZ of course) at the centre of the world action. Even our current set of mediocre politicians couldn’t stuff that up. Could they?????